Nebraska Quail Hunting Forecast 2019

dcbfe85f-21c0-4b10-9157-78c9ab0948b3 After several mild winters, the quail population was expanding its territory in Nebraska, but last year’s harsh 2018-2019 winter likely slowed that growth. Still, in areas of good habitat, hunters can usually move their fair share of birds in the Cornhusker State.
 

WEATHER AND CONDITIONS

“At the northernmost extent of their range, Nebraska’s bobwhite populations are limited by
extreme winter weather events,” says John Laux, upland habitat and access program manager for the state Game and Parks Commission. “This past winter, much of Nebraska’s bobwhite range experienced above normal snowfall, prolonged snow cover, and extreme freezing temperatures well into spring. This likely had a negative impact on overwinter survival as declines in bobwhite abundance were observed in most regions.”

“This was followed by a heavy rain and snowmelt event in late March that caused widespread flooding throughout the Midwest,” adds Quail Forever wildlife biologist Ben Wheeler. “The extent of that flooding caused a situation where birds might be directly killed by rising waters, or where preferred late winter habitat was then underwater.”
 

HABITATS, BROODS AND COUNTS

Those unforgiving weather factors appear to have reduced this year’s breeding population. Statewide, bobwhite abundance indices from the July rural mail carrier survey and whistle count survey were 37% lower compared to 2018 and also below the 5-year averages. For an in-depth look at Nebraska’s quail surveys, visit outdoornebraska.gov/upland/.

“Our above average moisture throughout the spring and summer has affected many things: calving season and livestock survival, planting dates, types of crops being planted, hay harvest, and even failed bridges,” says Wheeler. “Excessive moisture is well documented in wildlife research as being a detrimental factor during the nesting and brood rearing season.”
 

TOP SPOTS

Laux says the traditional Nebraska quail stronghold in the southeast portion of the state will likely deliver again this year.

“Some of the best-looking quail habitat in the southeast occurs on publicly accessible lands. Precipitation is more abundant in eastern Nebraska so grassland succession occurs more quickly here,” Laux explains.

Wheeler says don’t count out the southwest portion of the state, since the surveys suggest that portion of the state as holding the greatest number of whistling males. There are a number of great public access opportunities in that area as well.
 

INSIDER TIP

Look for transitional cover - fencerows, transitions between grain fields and riparian areas, as well as abandoned homesteads or barns. Quail will use grain field edges for loafing and food sources, but they need nearby woody cover to hide from predators.

Laux says private lands enrolled in Open Fields and Waters provide most of the public hunting opportunities, but good quail numbers can also be found on state and federal lands surrounding some of the region’s reservoirs.

Because Nebraska is home to healthy populations of both quail and pheasants (as well as prairie chickens), be prepared for a mixed bag hunt. Check the regulations for your area and register for your free East Zone grouse permit.
 

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